AP Images

Kvitova eases into 3rd round at Eastbourne

Leave a comment

EASTBOURNE, England (AP) Petra Kvitova continued to impress with a straight-sets victory over Kateryna Bondarenko in the second round at the Eastbourne International on Tuesday.

The third-seeded Kvitova, who won her fifth title of the season on Sunday in Birmingham, triumphed 7-5, 6-3 and looks in impervious form ahead of her bid to win a third Wimbledon.

Kvitova’s career looked seriously in doubt 18 months ago after a knife attack at her home which led to surgery on her left playing hand.

“I’m pretty happy with my win today,” Kvitova said. “Obviously, I’m a little bit tired, but I got a hit this morning before the match, a warmup.

“The whole tournament (in Birmingham) was more relaxed for me from my side. It was great that I hopefully will save some energy for the next weeks. I felt good with the body, so that’s important.”

In a tight first set, Kvitova secured the first break but Bondarenko broke back when the Czech player was serving for the set.

However, Kvitova broke straight back and held her serve to love, clinching the first set with a delightful serve and volley.

Bondarenko went 3-1 up with a break in the second as Kivitova double-faulted. But that was to be the last game the Ukrainian won. Kvitova sealed the match with another break when her opponent hit a forehand into the net.

Up next for Kvitova is Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated 15th-seeded Daria Gavrilova 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-0.

British No. 1 Johanna Konta will face Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. The top-seeded Wozniacki eased past Aleksandra Krunic 6-1, 6-3.

The 13th-seeded Konta stuttered at times and perhaps benefited from Krunic injuring herself while sliding into the net mid-rally toward the end of the first set.

The Serbian player had treatment on court and played the second set with strapping on her left leg.

Konta has not dropped a set against Wozniacki in their two previous meetings – the 2017 Australian Open and the final of last year’s Miami Open.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Konta said. “I haven’t played her in quite some time and she’s obviously a Grand Slam champion this year, playing some great tennis, so I’ll look forward to that battle.”

Earlier, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus upset sixth-seeded Julia Goerges 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, while Danielle Collins of the United States beat 16th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2, 6-4.

Fifth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Estonia looked back to some of her best tennis as she dismissed Kaia Kanepi, 6-3, 7-5.

It was Ostapenko’s first match since losing in the first round of her French Open title defense.

Other seeded players to make it to the third round were: Daria Kasatkina, Elise Mertens, Barbora Strycova and Anastasija Sevastova.

Serena falls to Pliskova in Aussie Open quarters

AP Photo
1 Comment

Karolina Pliskova says her “mind was in the locker room” when she was down 5-1 in the third set of her Australian Open quarterfinal against 23-time major winner Serena Williams.

In one of the most stunning comebacks at the Australian Open, the seventh-seeded Pliskova saved four match points as she rallied to win the last six games to clinch a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory and a semifinal spot against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka.

“I didn’t have too many chances in the third set. I was a little bit too passive. Obviously mentally down,” Pliskova said. “So I just said, ‘Let’s try this game, on 5-2, maybe I’m going to have couple of chances.’

“She got a bit shaky at the end, so I took my chances, and I won.”

Pliskova’s win over the seven-time Australian Open titlist means there’ll be a first-time women’s champion at Melbourne Park this year.

In the other semifinal, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova will play Danielle Collins, who had never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament. Kvitova’s best previous run at Melbourne was to the semifinals in 2012.

‘Barbecued chicken’: Tiafoe’s Australia run ended by Nadal

AP Photo
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal is back to feeling healthy. Probably not a coincidence that he’s back in the Australian Open semifinals.

Playing his familiar brand of court-covering, ball-bashing, opponent-frustrating tennis, Nadal claimed 20 of his first 23 service points and saved the only two break chances he faced, ending American Frances Tiafoe’s best Grand Slam run with a dominating 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory Tuesday night.

“I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things I went through,” said Nadal, who quit during his quarterfinal at Melbourne Park a year ago because of a right leg problem, again during his semifinal at the U.S. Open in September because of a painful right knee, and then had offseason surgery on his right ankle.

“Not easy situations,” he said, summing it up.

Nadal, 32, reached his 30th major semifinal and prevented Tiafoe from getting to his first, two days after he turned 21.

“I knew he was going to bring crazy intensity. I knew the ball was going to be jumping. I knew if he got hold of a forehand, it was going to be barbecued chicken,” Tiafoe said. “But point in, point out, I’ve never seen someone so locked in.”

The two hadn’t played each other before, though they did practice together at Roland Garros back in 2014, when Tiafoe was a teen in the junior competition.

Entering this year’s Australian Open, the 39th-ranked Tiafoe had never been past the third round at a major. But he knocked off two-time Slam runner-up Kevin Anderson and 20th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov on the way to the quarterfinals, drawing plenty of attention for his play – and his bare-chested, biceps-slapping celebrations inspired by LeBron James.

As usual, Tiafoe was animated and talkative Tuesday. He lamented missed shots with a self-admonishing “Oh, Frances!” He marked good ones with a shout of “Let’s go!”

But it all came to a screeching halt against Nadal, a 17-time major champion.

Tiafoe, who is from Maryland, was broken the initial time he served in each set, which was all Nadal needed, given how well he handled his own service games. He’s been reluctant to go into detail about a recent tweak he made to his serve, saying it’s “nothing drastic, nothing dramatic.”

He spoke after Tuesday’s win about going for winners on his first forehand following a serve, something he called “very important … at this stage of my career.”

Whatever he’s doing is working. And how. Nadal has won every set he’s played in the tournament, the first time he’s done that en route to the semifinals in Australia since 2009, the only time he won the championship.

“I am playing well,” he said. “I did a lot of things well during the whole week and a half.”

Now Nadal goes up against another opponent much younger than he is, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, who upset Roger Federer in the fourth round.

The 14th-seeded Tsitsipas became the first player from Greece to earn a semifinal berth at a major, beating No. 22 Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) earlier Tuesday.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Tsitsipas said about his matchup against Nadal. “I feel all right with my game. I feel like I can do something good against him.”

Asked about all of these kids trying to elbow their way to the top of tennis, Nadal smiled and said: “They can wait a little bit.”